To read on The Villager website:
Father and his son with Down syndrome face challenges together
Thirteen-year-old Kennedy Lewis dances through the living room of his family’s Greenwood Village home. His speech can be difficult to understand, but his body language is clear.
“Are you a good dancer?” his father Lloyd asks.
“Yeah,” Kennedy answers.
“Are you smart?”
“Are you handsome?”
In many ways, Kennedy lives the life of a typical seventh-grader. He attends mostly regular classes and has friends across the spectrum of the middle school social sphere.
Even so, the teen’s challenges are apparent. He was born with Down syndrome.
“He’s a real self-confident kid. He’s very popular at the school. He’s accepted,” said his father, whose second career in nonprofit management was directly prompted by Kennedy. “It’s a little hard to get bummed at work if you’re working with someone with Down syndrome because they just don’t get the complaining thing. They have these beautiful personalities.”
In 2005, Lloyd Lewis, the father of six, left his lucrative career as a chief financial officer for a high-tech company to assume similar duties for Arc Thrift Stores, the chief fundraising arm for Arc of Colorado, the state’s principal nonprofit dedicated to support and advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I thought it would be a chance to take my business skills and help create funding and help people like my son,” Lewis said. “We’ve grown dramatically since then. We’ve more than doubled our revenue. We’ve quintupled our earnings.”
The Arc’s curve was so positive that Lewis was named the organization’s president and CEO. Today, Arc boasts 24 thrift stores across the state that support Colorado’s programs while employing 1,400 workers, more than a fifth of whom have intellectual or developmental disabilities, including autism and cerebral palsy.
“What I’ve learned is that people like Kennedy have these amazing qualities—kindness, appreciation—that are as important as any other,” Lewis said. “We spend a lot of time trying to make people with disabilities more like us. I thought there should be some therapy to make us more like them.”
It was clear from the beginning that Kennedy would be different.
“He didn’t cry, which I thought was interesting—and that’s not uncommon for Down syndrome,” Lewis said of those early moments in the delivery room.
After the child was whisked away, the doctor, an older man, soon came back and dropped the bombshell—the baby had Down syndrome.
“He said it was like mongoloidism—I walked him out and banned him from the room,” Lewis recalled. “My immediate reaction was he’s my son. He was great and he’d always be great.”